Immigration Captured On Camera

Altar, Mexico, is like the Grand Central Station of illegal immigration.

Every day, hundreds of migrants from all over Central America gather there before crossing to the United States, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports in this week's Assignment America.

A few understand the danger that lies ahead, but most, like Felicia and her 15-year-old daughter Wendy, haven't a clue.

For a three-day walk through the desert, all Wendy had was a change of clothes, half a roll of toilet paper, cookies and two plastic garbage bags in case it rains or gets cold.

Part of the reason so many migrants – and U.S. citizens – have a hard time imagining what it's like to cross the border is that no one's every really visually documented the experience from both sides of the border, until now.

The Border Film Project documents the journey.

"This is a photo of a migrant who's actually drinking out of a cattle trough," says Rudy Adler, one of the organizers.

The project gave out about 1,000 disposable cameras, with pre-paid return envelopes, to both the migrants attempting to cross and the volunteer Minutemen attempting to stop them.

"We really wanted to show people the daily reality of what's happening on the border," Adler says.

The last pictures on the roll are some of the most telling. One migrant shows off how he made it.

Another ends with a border patrol helicopter hovering overhead. Yet another ends in pure pain, a migrant with blistering, bleeding feet.

Most migrants said they were the first pictures they'd ever seen from border. The shots were unsettling — but not dispiriting, especially not to Wendy.

But does she know there are people in the United States who don't want her to come?

"Si," Wendy says. She said she's been told that people in America are scared, and that they can discriminate based on the color of your skin. But she just wants to tell people that we are all the same.

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  • Melissa McNamara

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